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  • Writer's pictureBen Thomas

AV Geeks

“A trained peregrine stands to attention on the ARI8228 passive warning radar of a Blackburn Buccaneer. Poised on this powerful low-level British nuclear bomber, she looks ready for flight.”

Author Helen Macdonald once examined the symmetry between birds and aviation.

Three jets soar overhead as I walk east towards a river. Positioned in a pyramid formation, traveling west - their engines fill the air with a ferocious roar. Birds scatter as they pass, scuttling into the air with fear. Their metal, carbon fibre cousins have been bullying them for decades. Passing at such a speed, I couldn’t identify what type of aircraft they were. They may have been the RAF’s training jet – The Hawk. I glance at my aircraft radar app on my phone, attempting to see where these three titanium birds of prey are flocking to. They don’t show up –hidden for a reason. Only occasionally do military and government aircraft appear on the app – EasyJet and Ryanair tend to domineer the screen.

I have been an avid plane watcher throughout my early adult years, having trudged through rural terrain - often muddy, dusty, and wet - to get a glimpse of what might be flying overhead from a local air show or airport. I repeatedly find myself sticking my head out of a window and angling it ninety degrees upwards when I hear propellers or a jet engine rumbling above. I have numerous memories of my friend Rob and I driving up to RAF or USAF bases with a few sandwiches, a flask of drink and an ATC radio. Toilet break at a nearby petrol station, a chat with whom we call “AV Geeks”, walks around unkempt fields. Regular occurrences. We’ve sat for hours failing to see anything, before the excitement of a small dot on the horizon appears and gradually gets larger, finally giving the day a sense of productivity. The frustration of it revealing itself to be a bird – and the subsequent expletives.

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